Brancepeth Station

Masterton Stronvar Road, Wainuioru

  • Brancepeth Station.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Date: 1/01/2006.
  • Brancepeth Station. Homestead.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 1/03/2003.
  • Brancepeth Station. Coach House and Stable.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Rebecca O'Brien. Date: 1/03/2003.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7649 Date Entered 24th March 2006 Date of Effect 24th March 2006


Extent of List Entry

Note this registration combines 13 previously registered entries. Registration includes the land, all pre-1950 buildings and their fittings and fixtures, and all pre-1950 objects associated with Brancepeth Station that are located on or within Part Lot 1, Deposited Plan 5017, Wellington Registry. See Appendix 2 of registration report for Extent of Registration and Appendix 5 of registration report for further details on key sites.

City/District Council

Masterton District


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 5017 (RT WN286/224), Wellington Land District

Location description

Located 22 kilometres east of Masterton. Its boundaries are formed by the Masterton Stronvar Road, Ngaumu Road, other land parcels, and the Whakatamahine River.


In 1856 Jack Hutton and four Beetham brothers drove 500 sheep to the remote Wainuioru Valley near Masterton to start breaking in their 4,000 hectare leasehold. Although much of the land remained heavily forested, the heart of what was to become Brancepeth had been cleared by fairly recent Maori fires in preparation for seasonal cultivation. During the first years the brothers constructed a whare, storehouse, and a woolshed, and began building up their flock. In 1858, a partnership between the Beethams and Thomas Coldham Williams provided capital to purchase substantial tracts of land and develop the run. By the late 1890s threats to the Station, such as wild dogs, rabbits, and wild pigs, had been overcome. Under the management of Hugh Beetham, Brancepeth Station became the largest sheep-station in the Wairarapa, with approximately 24,000 hectares (59,000 acres). It employed hundreds of workers and had taken on the appearance of a small village.

By the 1900s, the future of the Station was jeopardised by compulsory subdivision. In 1905, to avoid a government-imposed division of the run, the Beethams divided the Station's lands. Soon afterward, Hugh Beetham employed noted architect Joshua Charlesworth to construct the magnificent Brancepeth Homestead, a visible manifestation of the Station's success. Brancepeth was further broken up by a government-imposed purchase in 1914, and after World War II. It now consists of approximately 520 hectares (1285 acres). The Station remains with the Beetham family, whose management has ensured that the colonial grandeur of the Brancepeth Homestead and its outbuildings is maintained. The area included in the registration is the heart of the Station, and features buildings and structures from each phase of its development, from the 1856 whare, to the 1905 Homestead.

The complex of historic buildings surrounding the grand Homestead at the core of Brancepeth Station make it a place of rare and valuable historical interest, and an outstanding and remarkably intact example of Victorian sheep station self-sufficiency. While the survival of most of the Station's original farm buildings (for almost 150 years in one case) is unique, the history of the Station and its owners, the Beethams, is less unusual. The Brancepeth story epitomises the trials encountered by many of New Zealand's early runholders in the mid-nineteenth century. It also exemplifies the rewards to be earned by those who endured and succeeded.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value


Brancepeth Station has historic significance. The Beetham's development of Brancepeth Station is an important case-study in the history of land acquisition in the Wairarapa. The rushed and chaotic nature of the Crown's acquisition of land from Wairarapa Maori in 1853 is demonstrated through the challenge to the Beetham's leasehold on 4000 acres by Maori in 1857. The impact of the government's Native Land Court, which ensured that most land in the Wairarapa was alienated from Maori by 1900, is demonstrated by the expansion history of Brancepeth Station as much of the Station's land acquired post-1858 was Maori land obtained through the Native Land Court system.

Together with surviving documentary material, Brancepeth Station provides insight into the relations between Maori and Pakeha during this important period. Although an Amiowhenua taua had forced most of the tangata whenua to retreat from the area in the 1820s and 1830s, the forest at Wainuioru and Maungaraki was highly valued for its rich resources and use for seasonal cultivation, and the Beethams shared the land with its erstwhile Maori owners, who continued to cultivate and hunt on the large areas not being actively cleared or farmed by the Beethams. The Beethams generally enjoyed remarkably good relations with local Maori, and at times devoted some effort to cultivating them. The strength of the relationship is indicated by the history of the Nuku Tewha-Tewha pataka, formerly at Brancepeth and now held at the Dowse Art Museum. Brancepeth Station is also an important tool for understanding New Zealand's colonial economy. In the nineteenth century, the New Zealand economy was based predominantly on the production of wool, and pastoralism was therefore a sound means of generating wealth. For those, like the Beethams, who were sufficiently early to acquire land, and had sufficient capital to work it, there was an opportunity to create vast sheep-stations and position themselves at the peak of New Zealand's emerging society in the second half of the nineteenth century. The integrity of Brancepeth Station buildings, and the retention of buildings from the earliest days of the Station, vividly illustrate the emergence of pastoralism in New Zealand.

Category: Category I historic place.

Category I historic places are 'places of special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value'. Brancepeth Station fits within this description as it is an important example of the impact of Pakeha on Maori land ownership and the emergence and development of pastoralism in New Zealand. The completeness and integrity of Brancepeth and its buildings, which represent the development of the Station between 1856 and 1905, is both remarkable and rare, and make it a significant information source.


Brancepeth Station has architectural merit. The Brancepeth Homestead is an important example of an architecturally designed building. It was constructed in 1905, during what Terrence Hodgson describes as New Zealand's 'golden age of big house building' and remains an important illustration of this housing type. Designed by noted architect Joshua Charlesworth in the Scottish baronial style (a northern manifestation of English Tudor), the building features a castellated central tower and opulent, finely detailed interiors. Apart from minor repairs, the building remains true to its 1905 configuration. The Brancepeth Station outbuildings are important architecturally because the design and construction methods are typical of those used on farms throughout New Zealand. While very few farm buildings were architecturally designed, Geoffrey Thornton considered that they demonstrate 'a clear sense of good design principles' through 'simplicity of form, good proportions, pleasing texture and pattern in the materials used and sensitivity in their siting in the landscape'. At Brancepeth Station, the 'design' was dictated by each building's function and the materials immediately available to hand. Each building was custom-made on site to meet the Station's needs. Apart from the wells, which were constructed from brick, the outbuildings were made from pit-sawn timber cut on the Station. The buildings were painted with an application of red oxide paint, commonly known as barn-red.


Brancepeth Station has value for its aesthetic qualities. Described by A. G. Bagnall as 'one of the most striking and satisfying station complexes in the country', the complex provokes a strong emotional response. This response is elicited in two ways. The first emotional response to Brancepeth is consciously cultivated. On approaching the complex, the first structure viewed by the visitor is the Brancepeth Homestead. The Homestead was constructed at the peak of Brancepeth's economic power, and is designed as a physical manifestation of its owners' success. The building is intended to impress the visitor with a sense of the occupants' consequence, substance, and permanence. One of the grandest homes in the region, the Homestead is carefully situated to ensure maximum impact upon the visitor. The gardens feature mature introduced trees, expansive lawns, and formal plots that recall those of an English stately home. The two-storeyed Homestead features 32 rooms, and is designed in the Scottish baronial style complete with a castellated central tower and family coat of arms emblazoned on a pillar. The sense of magnificence is enhanced by the presence of the Coach house and Stables, which sheltered the family's valuable horses, motorcars, and the employees who attended to them.

The second emotional response is a reaction to the sheer age and integrity of the Station complex, which combine to create a sense of 'going back in time'. Its buildings immediately convey an understanding of all aspects of the nature of life and work carried out on the complex. This understanding is further enhanced by the retention of the Station's equipment in most buildings on site. The age of the buildings adds to the completeness of the experience. The buildings on Brancepeth range in age from the first year the station was established in 1856, to its peak in 1905. One hundred and fifty years on, the development of the Station from that of a two man operation, to a Wairarapa institution is clearly evident, and impresses the visitor with a sense both of history, and sheer hard work.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

As noted above, Brancepeth Station represents the impact of Crown negotiations and the Native Land Court on Maori land, the development and importance of pastoralism in New Zealand.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

Much of the pre-Pakeha history of the land has been lost, since Maori ownership of land was ended in the rush of hastily-prepared Crown land deeds in 1853-1854. However, the land was occupied by Maori, who have left a legacy of place names and, presumably, some physical remains that have potential to provide knowledge of this lost portion of New Zealand's history.

(d) The importance of the place to tangata whenua

The land that became Brancepeth Station was of importance to tangata whenua. Prior to Pakeha settlement the land was occupied by Rangitane hapu, and later arrivals such as Ngai Tahu and Ngati Ira, and hapu of Ngati Kahungunu. Brancepeth Station once incorporated a number of key sites of significance to Maori, including the Hakikino (or Hakakino) pa, which was occupied by Ngati Hika Rahui and was the site of a major battle in the late eighteenth century. However, this pa is located on the Wainuioru River, and falls outside of the current Station / registration boundaries. Prior to Pakeha settlement, it appears that that what is now the heart of Brancepeth was primarily valued for seasonal cultivation and its rich food resources.

The history of land ownership may also have importance to the tangata whenua. The chaos of the original Crown land dealings and the subsequent operations of the Native Land Court that enabled the expansion of Brancepeth Station, are an important indicator of the means by which Maori lost control of land to Pakeha in the Wairarapa region.

Brancepeth Station itself may be of importance to tangata whenua in that the Beethams and local Maori generally enjoyed remarkably good relations. The strength of this relationship with local Maori is indicated by the history of the Nuku Tewha-Tewha pataka, now held at the Dowse Art Museum.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place

Brancepeth Station has strong community associations. The Station was 'a way of life not only for the Beethams but also for everyone who worked there and regarded it as a home'. In the late nineteenth century, up to 400 workers would be on the payroll during a single year and it had all the makings of a small village community.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

Brancepeth Station is currently managed by a private trust and is not open to the public. Should it become publicly accessible, the Station would be important educational resource due to the completeness and integrity of the complex.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

Constructed between 1856 and 1905 as a collective, the buildings represent changes in building construction and styles during the period when large sheep stations were pivotal to New Zealand's economic development. The remarkable state of preservation in which these buildings have been retained over the past 150 years also adds significantly to their value.

(i) The importance of the identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement

Brancepeth Station dates from the 1850s, an early period of Pakeha settlement in New Zealand. The beginnings of what became Brancepeth Station were established in 1856, when the Beethams took up a lease of a vacant Crown run of 4,000 hectares in the Wainuioru Valley. The Beethams were the first Pakeha to settle the Valley, and their sheep-run centred on land cleared by Maori fires. The Station's earliest remaining buildings include the original Whare, and a pataka, both of which were constructed by the Beethams in 1856, and an early brick well.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

Brancepeth Station is considered one of the most complete complexes of station buildings in New Zealand. It includes residential accommodation and an office for the owners, facilities to accommodate the large working population (accommodation, privies, cookhouse, store, library, and school), and the essential buildings used to run the station itself (woolshed, stables, blacksmiths, fat house, and slaughterhouse). In addition, the buildings retain much of the original equipment and fittings from the period during which they were in use. The store, for instance, still carries the produce to be sold to the station employees at the time it was closed, the Coach house features an original coach, and the slaughterhouse is still in full working order with its hooks, screened meatsafes, and other fittings and paraphernalia. A notable exception to this is the library, whose catalogued collection was transferred to Victoria University of Wellington Library in 1966. This completeness of the complex, combined with the integrity of the buildings, fittings, and fixtures, gives the complex rarity value.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Charlesworth, Joshua

Charlesworth (1861-1925) was born in Yorkshire and the first record of his practice in Wellington was in the New Zealand Post Office Directory of 1885-87.

He won a competition for the design of the Home for the Aged and Needy in June, 1887, and in the same year won another for the design of the Nelson Town Hall. Charlesworth set up practice in Wellington in his early twenties, designing many institutional buildings and showing command of the revival styles of architecture.

His work includes the Wellington Town Hall (1901), Brancepeth Station Homestead addition, Wairarapa (1905), Te Aro Post Office (1908), St Hilda's Church, Upper Hutt (1909), and seventeen branch banks for the Bank of New Zealand, situated throughout the country (1907-17).

Charlesworth was elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1905, and became a life member of the Institute. He was its vice-president in 1909-10, and was the first chairman of a society of architects which was formed in 1912. Charlesworth also belonged to the Yorkshire Society in Wellington and was its president for many years.

Daniell, Charles Edward

Daniell emigrated to New Zealand and settled in the Wairarapa in 1880 at the age of 24. He had learned building skills in England and began constructing bridges in the Wairarapa. Throughout the following years he designed and built many of the Wairarapa's large homesteads and farm buildings. He set up a timber mill for a ready supply of timber and then a hardware store. This store survived as "C.E. Daniell's" until the mid 1980s. Such ventures meant that Daniell was the largest employer in the Wairarapa for many years. In addition to this he worked extensively in the community, chairing several school Boards, an orphanage and the Wellington Harbour Board among other organizations.

He was responsible for Awatoitoi Homestead, Blairlogie (1907-12) and Annandale Station woolshed.

Beetham family

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicates modifications made after the paper was considered by the NZHPT Board.

The relative inaccessibility of the upper Wainuioru valley, about 20 kilometres east of Masterton on what is now the Masterton-Stronvar Road, had discouraged occupation of Crown land there until William Beetham and John [Henry Corrie] (or Jack) Hutton took up a leasehold run there in 1856. Several years before that, Hutton had visited the valley, probably with his [uncle] Reverend T. B. Hutton, missionary who visited Wairarapa Maori from 1852 to 1854 from his base in Naenae (Lower Hutt), where William Beetham had also settled. Jack described Wainuioru to his friends the Beethams as "very beautiful," leading to further investigation in 1856.

William Beetham (1809-1888) was a successful Yorkshire-born artist, portrait painter, and member of the Royal Academy, who arrived in Wellington in 1855, seeking a better future for his family of six sons and three daughters. Jack Hutton and the eldest Beetham son, Richmond, set off in August 1856 to investigate Wainuioru, a trip that then involved an arduous trek in from the coast at Castlepoint, travelling via the Whareama River valley and rough bush tracks. They liked what they found and convinced their fathers to take up a lease of a vacant Crown run of 4,000 hectares in September 1856.

The lease of the land may have lain open since the Crown land purchase commissioner Donald McLean acquired the land from a few local rangatira in December 1853, but Wainuioru was far from vacant. When Jack Hutton and the Beetham brothers (Richmond (or Dick), William Henry, George, and Hugh Horsley Beetham) arrived with their first 500 sheep in late 1856 to start breaking in their 4,000 hectare leasehold run they found that although much of the land remained heavily forested, the heart of what was to become Brancepeth had been cleared by fairly recent Maori fires. In the early years they shared the land with its erstwhile Maori owners, who continued to cultivate and hunt on the large areas not being actively cleared or farmed by the Beethams.

The land had a long history of occupation by Rangitane hapu, as well as later arrivals such as Ngai Tahu and Ngati Ira and the many hapu of Ngati Kahungunu that came to dominate much of Wairarapa in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Migrations and marriages resulted in many hapu having a complex web of whakapapa and political alliances that confound a blunt iwi categorisation. Much of this history has been lost since Maori ownership of land was ended in the rush of hastily-prepared Crown land deeds in 1853-1854, followed by the later loss of the few reserves to local farmers. Some occupants have left behind little more than place names: for instance, the Ngaipu block (acquired for Brancepeth in the 1890s) was shortened from Te Iringa o Nga Ipu o Hinetuatahi, or 'the place where Hinetuatahi hung up her calabashes in a tree'. Hinetuatahi was the daughter of Mahanga, a Ngati Ira tupuna who led his people into the Maungaraki area (between Wainuioru and Gladstone) in the late seventeenth century.

Other tupuna associated with Wainuioru include Rangitawhanga of Ngati Kahukuraawhitia hapu, but also linked to Ngai Tahu and Ngati Ira. He migrated south from Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay) with his people in the late seventeenth century and sought land from his whanaunga (relation) Te Rerewa of Rangitane. As Te Rerewa wished to migrate to the Wairau valley, Marlborough, he was prepared to enter into a tukuwhenua (a gift exchange of land), and agreed to exchange four waka (canoes) with Rangitawhanga for land at Papawai and Ahikouka (near Greytown). The four waka were felled and made by Rangitawhanga and his people at Wainuioru.

Ngati Hikawera (whose leaders during the colonial period included the influential Mahupuku whanau), were later gifted land by another Rangitane rangatira Turangatahi. This tukuwhenua included the Ngaipu block and Kourarau land, and followed a battle in which Turangatahi was captured by Poari and his Ngati Kahungunu forces in battle. After his life and those of his Rangitane people were spared, they gifted the land. Hapu linked to Ngati Kahukuraawhitia, such as Ngati Kaipaoe, also maintained links to Wainuioru and held significant interests in the Upokongaruru block, from which the core lands of Brancepeth were derived after the Upokongaruru deed was arranged by McLean in December 1853.

Hakikino (or Hakakino) was an important pa within Brancepeth, on the Wainuioru River, and was occupied by Ngati Hika Rahui. According to one local history it was the site of a great battle in about 1795, at which a rangatira associated with the early years of Brancepeth, Piripi, was said to have been present, as a child. When the Beethams found a great many bones some distance from the pa they named the spot Golgotha, and it has been assumed that the bones were the remains of those killed at Hakikino.

The Amiowhenua taua (war party) and other northern taua of the 1820s and 1830s devastated the Wainuioru area and much of Wairarapa, forcing most of the tangata whenua to retreat deep into the bush or to migrate north to shelter at Mahia during the 1830s. When they returned in 1840-1843, pa such as Hakikino and Rauatahunga (another Wainuioru pa) were not reoccupied, as the Maori population was concentrated in the open central valley and at coastal kainga, particularly after these areas became the focus for early settlement by Pakeha runholders from 1844. Even so, the forest at Wainuioru and Maungaraki was highly valued for its rich resources, including mahinga kai (food-gathering areas), birds, kiore (native rats), and wild pigs. Fertile valley floors were also cleared by fire for seasonal cultivation while the bush on some poorer land on higher slopes was burned off as part of the customary cultivation of rarauhe (bracken fern).

The beginning of the end of Maori occupation of Upokongaruru and other Brancepeth lands came with the Crown land deeds of 1853 and later waves of Crown land purchasing up to 1863 that saw over three-quarters of Wairarapa land wrested from Maori. The first deed arranged in this area was Waihora, an area between the Taueru (or Tauweru or Tauheru) and Wainuioru Rivers estimated to contain 5,000 hectares for which £300 was paid in November 1853. No reserves were made. The Upokongaruru block, estimated to comprise 20,000 hectares, was acquired by the Crown in December 1853, the nine vendors being paid £487 and a horse. No reserves were set aside. The vendors included Piripi Tuapa, who appears to be the Piripi referred to so often by the Beethams during their early years at Brancepeth. The land had actually been set aside for purchase by the Crown in October 1853, when Te Hapuku (a controversial land-selling rangatira of Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay) favoured by the Crown) accepted nearly half the purchase payment as an advance from McLean.

Another area alienated from Maori ownership in these early years that is of relevance to Brancepeth is Tupurupuru, a large area on the western bank of the Wainuioru, extending as far as Gladstone and comprising 17,000 hectares. This was acquired in 1859 from 37 vendors who were paid the more substantial sum of £1,910 (still remarkably cheap for such a quantity of land). They also secured four reserves, including one in southern Wainuioru.

The Crown's rushed and chaotic land dealings did not form an entirely secure basis for the occupation of the Beetham and Hutton run. One difficulty arising out of the Crown's hasty negotiation for the Upokongaruru deed emerged on 22 April 1857, when Piripi, 'Matihaka' (probably Matiaha), Tamati Wiremu, and another man approached Richmond (1836-1912) and William Henry Beetham (1837-1925) at their first whare. They forcefully told the brothers that the land was still theirs, struck the whare, and threatened to burn it down. The Crown had wrongly dealt for their land with Te Hapuku, who had no right to deal with Wainuioru. William had already acquired some ability with te reo Maori from Reverend Hutton in Naenae, and succeeded in calming the four men until he and his brother could consult their distant neighbours about this dispute.

By 28 April 1857, a hui appears to have been convened to discuss the matter, after which William noted that the boundary of the run had been altered, the Maori claimants, "taking off home hill and the whare." While the outcome is not apparent from the available sources, William did not appear overly troubled; the main concern expressed in his diary was that these Maori guests, who remained on the land for some days, had not brought any food with them, which was 'a great nuisance'. It is not entirely clear from the record which whare and which land was the subject of this early Maori protest, nor how permanent this adjustment of the boundaries was. Given that the establishment of the Beetham station continued at what is now the Brancepeth Homestead, it is possible that the whare referred to was an outlying one put up for temporary habitation, rather than the main whare at Brancepeth.

It was an incident that occurred during the erection of the Beethams' first whare in late 1856 or early 1857 that gave the station its name. The bush at Upokongaruru was full of wild pigs and one day, while two of the Beetham brothers worked in the rafters of their first rough whare (which still stands beside the main 1905 homestead), a huge boar came out of the bush and walked around their camp, silently observed by the pair, before it retired unchallenged. The name Brancepeth was then suggested, being derived from 'boar's path', or 'brawn's path' in the Beethams' northern England dialect. The brothers were aware of Brancepeth castle near Durham (named from its location on a boar's path), not far from their father's birthplace.

Interestingly, William Henry Beetham's detailed (if, at times, scarcely legible) journal for 1856-1858 does not appear to mention the incident or of the name Brancepeth. Possibly, the incident occurred while he was away from the station, or the name originated later than is generally assumed. Nonetheless, the frontispiece for his 1857 journal features a sketch of a very large boar, while another boar is drawn in the entry for 13 November 1858, when the Beethams were hard at work at the saw pit near their whare, apparently preparing to build the large homestead that replaced the first whare. William noted that it was "two years to the day" since he had arrived at Wainuioru in preparation for his new life on the land. "I little thought," he wrote, "last year at this time [that] we should be beginning a whare to live in, we never do half [what] we set out [to do]."

In the decades following the building of the first homestead the Beethams did rather more than half what most runholders set out to do. Many outlying stations such as Brancepeth struggled to get established in late 1850s in the face of numerous obstacles: their small flocks were at risk from wild dogs, or nibbled on poisonous tutu; there was a lack of fencing; capital was short, and; ongoing bush clearing hindered rapid growth. Enduring place names reflect some of these difficulties, such as Wild Dog Hill, where the Beethams first encountered a large pack of the wild dogs that were to ravage their sheep for some years.

Despite such difficulties, the future of Brancepeth was more secure when, in 1858, Anne Beetham, William's eldest daughter, married Thomas C. Williams (1825-1912) son of Reverend Henry Williams. Williams brought with him the capital to not only freehold the run's 4,000 hectare lease but, with his brothers-in-law, to extend Brancepeth. By 1870, it comprised 8,000 hectares to which was added more land acquired directly from Maori from 1869 onwards, including the Mauripo, Ngaipu, Ngutokoko, Oruatamore, Patukawa, Umukereru, Waipapa, and other blocks. Such land was acquired through the government's Native Land Court system, which ensured that the vast bulk of what little land remained for Wairarapa Maori was alienated by 1900.

The fate of the Ngutukoko block of 900 hectares indicates how such land was lost. One-third of the block was sold to the Beethams in 1869, largely to clear the costs of surveying the land and putting it through the costly Native Land Court. The residue was leased to Williams and Beetham for £38 per annum, but by 1882 the interests of several owners had been acquired, enabling the purchase of a further 570 hectares for £2,330. The Court further divided the interests of the numerous remaining owners until the titles were of such minimal value and unwieldy a shape as to make sale to Beetham and Williams the only sensible option. The last remaining interest, that of the indebted Rina Riwai, was a "long narrow strip sandwiched in amongst land owned by Beetham," so the 17 hectares was sold for £168. As this rendered Rina landless, the government insisted that £100 of this sum be devoted to the purchase of other land. Other reserves, such as the adjacent Waipapa block, were too small to ever be economically viable on their own. They were thus leased for long terms to neighbouring farmers such as the Beethams. As the numbers of owners increased with the generations and advances from the tenant built up, the sale of the block became inevitable, as occurred with Waipapa in 1909.

This was not the future that either the Beethams or their Maori neighbours had envisaged or desired when Wainuioru land had earlier been opened up for settlement. Other than the initial misunderstanding in 1857 (see above), the Beethams generally enjoyed remarkably good relations with local Maori, and at times devoted some effort to those relations. William and his son William Henry were interested in the tangata whenua and their history, learning Maori from Reverend Hutton while the two families lived at Naenae in 1855. Hugh Beetham is also said to have been a good speaker of te reo Maori. William's career as an artist continued in Wellington and he painted the portraits of a number of local Te Ati Awa rangatira, including Te Puni and Wi Tako Ngatata, as well as the Ngati Toa rangatira Te Rauparaha. The strength of this relationship with local Maori is indicated by the history of the Nuku Tewha-Tewha pataka, now held at the Dowse Art Museum.

Over the Rimutakas at Brancepeth, William Henry Beetham put his te reo Maori to use, frequently using Maori phrases, and even lengthy sentences in Maori, in the detailed journal he kept of the first two years of his time at Brancepeth. Several local Maori were employed during the establishment phase of the station, doing casual work such as timber-felling, sawing, and rail splitting. The names "Nairi," "Herini," "Rawiri," and others appear in the early journals for 1856-1858. Piripi, the local rangatira during the early years, used to sleep on the couch made by the Beethams for their first whare, preferring this to the bed they offered him during his stays at Brancepeth.

Another of William Beetham's sons, George (1840-1915), was the local Member of Parliament from 1877 to 1890, and sought to engage with Wairarapa Maori. Known to them as Hori Pitama, he undertook to assist them in putting their many land grievances to Parliament and sought to encourage their efforts for Maori education. The Beethams' connections to the tangata whenua endured even after Maori land was purchased for their expanding station. Another local rangatira Hori Te Huki - himself a farmer - became a familiar figure at Brancepeth, and was invited to Beetham family occasions such as the 1915 wedding of Hugh's eldest daughter. Hori gifted the taiaha and mere (of pounamu and whalebone) displayed at Brancepeth. The children of Hugh and Ruth Beetham are said to have each been given a Maori middle name in formal Maori christening ceremonies; Oren Beetham's Maori name, Huki, was clearly in honour of Hori Te Huki.

Although the original run had been selected in William Beetham's name, it was his sons who broke in the land and laid the foundations for Brancepeth. Richmond took a leading role in occupying the run but soon shifted his attentions to the law. Brancepeth was then managed by three of the Beetham brothers - William Henry, George, and Hugh Horsley - and their brother-in-law T. C. Williams. George then took up a political career (see above) and withdrew from an active role in the management of Brancepeth in the 1870s. After retiring from politics he returned 'home' to England in 1898.

William Henry also entered politics, being active at the local body level as well as in acclimatisation matters (particularly trout). He later shifted to a nearby Kourarau property (east of Gladstone) where he led the way in the early use of the Kourarau Stream for hydro-electric purposes. His education and interest in France led to his marriage to Zelie Frere during a trip 'home' that included a visit to France. This French connection led to the establishment of his pioneering vineyard at Lansdowne, just east of Masterton, using Picardy vines. The vineyard seems to have fallen victim to the Masterton area being declared 'dry' from 1909. The prohibitionists were, ironically, led by C. E. Daniell, the builder of the 1905 Brancepeth Homestead.

It fell to Hugh Beetham to take the lead in the management of Brancepeth, building it to its peak in the late 1880s and through the 1890s. During these years the station employed hundreds of workers and while some were seasonal workers, such as shearers, many were permanent staff based not only around the main homestead but also at the 'outstations' established on more distant parts of the run. At the Station's peak at the end of the nineteenth century, up to 400 workers would be on the payroll during a single year. The more-or-less permanent population of Brancepeth was recorded in 1889 as 100, larger than many of the small settlements dotting Wairarapa. An 1890 visitor observed that the station, with its many outbuildings, "looked like a small village," one that had its own school for about 25 years.

By 1890, Brancepeth covered 17,000 hectares of land valued at £133,000, with a further £54,000 in improvements (particularly sown pasture and costly rabbit-proof fencing), making it the most valuable station in Wairarapa. By 1901, it was also the largest station in the district; its 24,000 hectares extending from what is now Ngaumu forest in the south (towards Te Wharau) to the Taueru River in the north, and as far west as Kourarau. Brancepeth was then carrying 70,000 sheep, but other flocks were also run on the land and 100,000 sheep were reputed to have passed through the pens in 1901. A far less common farm animal did not appear in such statistics; red deer had been introduced to Brancepeth in the 1870s, and were carefully protected from hunters with the result that three herds were built up and maintained for more than a century.

There were new challenges to face during these decades of expansion, mainly from the unwanted flora. The wild dogs of the early years were soon dispatched through hunting and poisoning, but the wild pigs - which killed many lambs - proved harder to control because the farm population was continually replenished from the adjacent bush. Rabbits were the worst problem and from the 1870s Wairarapa farmers turned to increasingly desperate and - to modern eyes - damaging solutions; in the early 1890s ferrets and stoats were released at many stations, including Brancepeth. It also adopted a more innovative strategy, albeit one no less damaging and rather less successful than the mustelids. The station paid a bounty to Wellington youths for stray cats, 900 of which were rounded up and let loose upon the rabbits. Costly rabbit-proof fences built in the late 1890s turned out to be the not-quite final solution; these not only trapped Brancepeth's massive rabbit population for extermination, they also trapped the pigs, and prevented further incursions from beyond the boundaries. Rabbiting cost up to £7,000 per annum in the 1890s but after the fence went up the annual cost dropped to a mere £800, at least for a time.

At the dawn of a new century, the Liberal Government's drive for the closer settlement of land led to the "busting up" of great estates such as Brancepeth. Under the Land For Settlements Act 1894 large stations attracted disproportionately higher land taxes, with Brancepeth facing an annual bill of up to £1,000 if it was not broken up. Rather than face a government-imposed division of the run, the Beethams and Williams divided the station themselves in 1905. The Williams retained one group of blocks as Te Parae station, as well as the Annedale, Westmere, Mamaku, Rawhiti, Poroporo, and Longridge stations. William Henry Beetham remained at Kourarau and Hugh Beetham retained the core Brancepeth lands, of about 5,300 hectares. Even so, Premier Seddon criticised the division, claiming that the land had been cut up, "to defeat the law by dividing it amongst relatives," but despite his bluster, no action was taken and the division stood.

The much-reduced Brancepeth was further broken up by a government-imposed purchase of over 2,200 hectares in 1914. Further reductions after World War II mean that the Brancepeth of today - more like a farm than the substantial station it once was - comprises less than 1,500 acres, while the vast area once covered by that name takes in more than 45 farms. Although much-reduced, the farm remains with the Beetham family, whose management has ensured that the colonial grandeur of the Brancepeth Homestead and its outbuildings continues to be maintained.

Physical Description

Accessed via the Masterton Stronvar Road, Brancepeth Station is approximately 22 kilometres east of Masterton in the upper Wainuioru Valley. The Station boundaries are formed by the Whakatamahine River (north to north-east), other land parcels (east to the south), Ngaumu Road (south to the west), and the Masterton Stronvar Road (west to the north). The Station, which now consists primarily of cleared farmland, covers approximately 520 hectares (1285 acres). It is the remainder of what was, in early twentieth century, the largest station in the district at approximately 24,000 hectares (59,000 acres). The registration area is located in the north-west quadrant of the station, on approximately 213 hectares (527 acres) of land.

In 1856 the majority of the relatively inaccessible Wainuioru Valley was heavily forested, but when John (Jack) Hutton and the Beethams explored the area, part of it had been cleared by relatively recent Maori fires. The cleared area was selected for settlement and is now the heart of Brancepeth, featuring buildings and structures from each phase of the Station's development.

During the initial development of the Station in the mid-1850s, the Beethams constructed basic shelters necessary for survival. They used materials available to hand and drew on both Pakeha and Maori construction methods. Buildings remaining from this period include a basic shelter or whare made from pit-sawn totara weatherboards, a food store in the style of a Maori pataka, and a well. The well was located approximately 200 metres away from the whare and store. During this phase, the Beethams focussed on clearing land and establishing a flock, which was the primary source of income available to them.

In the late 1850s a partnership with their brother-in-law T. C. Williams enabled the Beethams to purchase the land and construct more permanent buildings. Between 1858 and 1859 a new, more elaborate homestead was erected near the original whare and store, and a large woolshed was completed. Inexperience caused the Beethams to construct the homestead from sapwood and it was replaced in its entirety in 1905. The woolshed, constructed approximately 150 metres away, is still extant.

Capital from the partnership led to a period of rapid growth in the late 1860s and 1870s. Further land blocks were purchased and the Beethams began farming on a much greater scale, employing assistance to clear and manage large portions of the station. Extant buildings around the Homestead reflect this growth. These buildings include accommodation for staff, a processing complex that included a slaughterhouse, gallows, and fat house, a new well built closer to the original homestead, facilities for horses including a stable and blacksmiths, and an office for station management. The buildings are made from timber with corrugated iron roofs. They are basic and, with the exception of the office, largely without decoration.

The buildings constructed in the 1850s to early 1870s formed the foundation for what became the largest station in the Wairarapa. However, most were relatively modest in scale and, by the mid-1870s had become too small to accommodate the needs of the Station. For this reason, many feature alterations from this period, as they were either converted to new uses or adapted. The whare, for instance, was converted into a carpenter's shop, the food store became a shop for staff, the original staff accommodation became a stable, and the original woolshed was converted into a stables and hay barn. New facilities were constructed from the mid-1870s to replace those that had been outgrown. These include the large accommodation facility and cookhouse near the former food store, and the new woolshed at what is now Te Parae Station. Although larger, these new facilities were similar in appearance to the originals, being plain, practical structures made from timber and corrugated iron. The only exception to this was the homestead, which was enhanced in 1886 by the addition of two elegant gables. By the 1880s and 1890s, the station was employing hundreds of workers, and the area around the main Homestead had taken on the appearance of a small village.

In 1905 Brancepeth Station was subdivided, and the final period of building commenced. This period highlights the economic success of the Beetham family. In 1905 the Beethams hired an architect for the first time, selecting noted Wellington architect Joshua Charlesworth to design a Scottish style baronial mansion on the site of the original homestead. Constructed by the then leading builder in the Wairarapa, C. E. Daniell, the 32-room, two storey Homestead is Brancepeth Station's magnificent centrepiece. Complete with a castellated central tower, the building aspires to extravagance and serves as a visible manifestation of wealth and a commitment to permanence. The area directly in front of the Homestead is complemented English-style gardens designed by Tom Summers and features mature introduced trees, expansive lawns, and formal garden plots.

The buildings of Brancepeth Station are therefore dominated by, and grouped around the most recent addition to the complex, the Brancepeth Homestead and gardens. Immediately adjacent to the Homestead is the original whare and the Homestead's stables and coach house, which was adapted from its use as staff accommodation and features decorative elements that link it to the house. Utilitarian structures associated with the running of the station are located to the rear of the Homestead. They are visually unified by similar construction materials (timber and corrugated iron), and by the paint colour (the traditional red oxide paint known as barn red. Items that were associated with the Homestead, such as the office, the gas shed, and privy are located immediately behind the house. Lane Cottage and the men's quarters and cookhouse are also located to the rear of the Homestead. The stables, blacksmiths, and original woolshed are located approximately 150 metres to the east of the Homestead, while the fat house, slaughterhouse and gallows complex is approximately 1 kilometre away (and downwind) of the Homestead.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1856 -
Brancepeth Station Whare constructed

Original Construction
1856 -
Brancepeth Station Store constructed

Original Construction
1856 -
Brancepeth Station Stump Shelter constructed (later modified)

Original Construction
1856 -
Brancepeth Station Well constructed

Original Construction
1858 - 1859
Brancepeth Station Homestead constructed

Original Construction
1859 -
Brancepeth Station Original Woolshed constructed

Original Construction
Brancepeth Station Stables and Coach House constructed

Original Construction
Brancepeth Station Lane Cottage constructed

Original Construction
Brancepeth Station Fat House constructed

Original Construction
Brancepeth Station Slaughterhouse constructed

Original Construction
Brancepeth Station Gallows constructed

Original Construction
Brancepeth Station Stables and Blacksmiths constructed

1870 -
Original well (1856) closed off and replaced with new well

1872 -
Single Men's quarters converted into Brancepeth Station Stables and Coach House

Original Construction
New Single Men's Quarters and Cookhouse constructed

Original Construction
1875 -
Brancepeth Station Office constructed

1886 -
Gables added to homestead

Original Construction
1886 -
Possible date of construction for Gas Shed

Original Construction
1890 -
Fowl house constructed

1905 -
Homestead partially demolished, new additions constructed

Original Construction
1905 -
Probable date of construction for Gas Shed

2019 - 2019
Homestead- Insulation installed

Construction Details

Brancepeth Station buildings range in date from 1856 to approximately 1905 and are primarily constructed from timber with corrugated iron roofs. The only architecturally designed building is the Homestead, with the remainder being plain, utilitarian structures erected by the Beetham family.

Completion Date

16th October 2005

Report Written By

Bruce Stirling with Rebecca O'Brien & Xanthe Howes

Information Sources

Alexander Turnbull Library

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

W. H. Beetham, 'Journal', 1854-1858, Mirco-MS-0059

Bagnall, 1976

A. G. Bagnall, Wairarapa; An Historical Excursion, Trentham, 1976

Ballara, 1998

A. Ballara, Iwi: the dynamics of Maori tribal organisation from c.1769 to c.1945, Wellington, 1998.

Hodgson, 1991

T. Hodgson, The Big House: Grand & Opulent Houses In Colonial New Zealand, Random, Auckland, 1991

Holden, 1993

P. Holden, Station Country: The Country Life in New Zealand, Hodder & Stoughton, Wellington, 1993

Kernohan, 2003

D. Kernohan, Wairarapa Buildings: Two centuries of New Zealand architecture, Wairarapa Archive, Masterton, 2003

Kitchenman, 1981

J. Kitchenman and Neil Rowe, Historic Wairarapa Homesteads: Life and Times, Hedley's Bookshop, Masterton, 1981

McEwen, 1986

J. McEwen., Rangitane a Tribal History, Auckland, 1986.

McLean, 2002

Gavin McLean, 100 Historic Places in New Zealand, Auckland, 2002

Newton, 1969

P. Newton, Big Country of the North Island, A. H. & A. W. Reed, Wellington, 1969

Thornton, 1986

Geoffrey Thornton, The New Zealand Heritage of Farm Buildings, Auckland, 1986

Yerex, 1991

D. Yerex, They Came to Wydrop; The Beetham and Williams Families, Wellington, 1991

Hedley and Winter, 2012

Hedley, Alex and Gareth Winter, In the Boar's Path: Brancepeth, Hedley Books, 2012.

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this report is available from the NZHPT Central Region Office.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.